Califermentation 2016: A Movement in Time

CalifermentationA lot of people would say that 2016 has sucked. John Oliver finished his last show of the year with an entire segment bidding 2016 a fucking fond farewell. After what was for just about everyone I know in San Francisco a devastating week following the presidential election, something needed to give. I think and hope Califermentation 2016 provided a much-needed respite for those – close to 400 people – who participated and attended.

A few people asked me which wines were my favorites. This is always a tough question and I’m going to refrain. I didn’t have a chance to try everything and made a point of tasting wines I didn’t know. Some stood out, others weren’t my thing and as we all have different tastes, it doesn’t matter that much. What is important is that we had 24 winemakers each day, 48 in total, who share a commitment to making wine naturally, starting with at a minimum, organic viticulture. Some of the wineries make all of their wines with grapes that were farmed without synthetics. Others work with both organic and non-organic vineyards but are moving in the right direction.

While natural winemaking may start in the vineyard, it does not end there and all of Califermentation’s producers are dedicated to making wines without additions and minimal or no added SO2. The results are stunning. In just a year’s time, it was amazing to see a transformation. Not only did we discover new wineries but also those who participated in 2015 as well are clearly on an upward trajectory (which is not to say the wines were not extremely good last year).

I don’t think of Califermentation as just an event. It is part of a movement to restore and preserve our environment, increase the well-being of agriculture laborers and consumers, and at the same time showcase the magic of terroir. There is nothing inherently political about it. I’ve gotten to know some of the winemakers well enough to know their views and while as a whole they might lean left, there is not unanimous agreement on economic policy, gun control and other issues. However, it is safe to say that all of them believe human beings have contributed to climate change. Every single one of them has made respecting mother earth, the other species that inhabit it and our obligation to future generations a cornerstone of their life’s work.

Califermentation goes beyond a tasting so while I’m thrilled that it was such a success this year, in so many ways, I realize there is so much more work at hand. Luckily, though, it can be done alongside hundreds of great bottles and dozens of inspiring people.








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